France will take on Croatia for Davis Cup glory

Martin Green

Thursday, October 25, 2018 1:29 PM UTC

Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018 1:29 PM UTC

The Davis Cup final will see a repeat of the World Cup final as France and Croatia lock horns in a battle for glory once more.

<p>Defending Davis Cup champion France has chosen clay as the surface for the Davis Cup final as it bids to defend its crown against Croatia in late November. David Goffin and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga inspired the French to a 3-2 victory over Belgium in last year’s final and they are hungry for more success. They beat Spain on an indoor hard court in September’s semi-final, while Croatia picked up a strong win against the USA on clay. It should prove to be an enthralling contest as both teams are blessed with some very strong players.</p><p>The final takes place on November 23-25 in Lille. The French lost to Switzerland here in 2014, but they now have fond memories of it as it was the scene of last year’s triumph over Belgium. France is on fire in the sporting world at present, with Les Bleus having romped to World Cup glory this year, and it has a great chance of further success in this Davis Cup final.</p><p>The French benefited from strong performances from veteran duo Julien Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut, who have 72 years on this planet between them, to see them past Spain in the semis. Singles victories for Benoit Paire and Lucas Pouille had put them 2-0 up in the series, and then Benneteau and Mahut stepped up to beat their equally experienced Spanish opponents Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers 6-0, 6-4, 7-6. It was a hugely impressive performance, particularly from Benneteau, who came out of retirement for this tournament.</p><p>The final is likely to be his last ever match on tour and victory would be a great end to his career. Yet he may have to content himself with a place on the bench as Tsonga is now back in business, and the likes of Pouille, Paire and Richard Gasquet offer plenty of quality. “This is the best tennis I've seen from my team in three years,” said coach Yannick Noah after their semi-final demolition job on Spain. “It’s another beautiful story. Once again, the remarkable team spirit he has gelled, with both the injured Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga having been determined to be there cheering on their mates from the bench, was in colourful evidence once again. Everyone wants to be part of our story.”</p><p>Yet they face a tough challenge in the final from a Croatia team surging with confidence. This will be a repeat of football’s World Cup final, which saw Les Bleus win 4-2, and the Croats will be desperate to avoid a similar result. Exciting youngster Borna Coric dazzled against the USA in the semi-finals, lighting up the court with a through the legs lob winner en route to a 6-4, 7-6, 6-3 victory over Steve Johnson, before Marin Cilic beat Frances Tiafoe 6-1, 6-3, 7-6 to put Croatia 2-0 up. However, the Americans fought back in style, as Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison won an epic doubles contest and then Sam Querrey beat Cilic to level the tie at 2-2.</p><p>But then Coric dug deep to beat Tiafoe in another five-set thriller and hand his team the win. “This is the most special moment of my whole life — by far,” he said. “If there were not fan support I would lose in the fourth set for sure, because my head was deep in the water.”</p><p>Cilic is ranked sixth in the world and Coric is 13th, so Croatia will have the two highest ranked stars in this final. That makes them a tempting option to win it at even money with <a href=";a=4d1545c6-88ce-4d1a-b541-31ea9e8a0d9b&amp;f=2">Sky Bet</a>. But the French are blessed with great team spirit at the moment, they should benefit from strong home support in Lille and they will enjoy playing on clay, so another France win at evens with <a href=";a=bced0cf5-be5d-40a4-8446-02910689b2b5">Paddy Power</a>, <a href=";a=32b59d0e-2bfb-43ac-987d-fd24429abae0">Betfair</a> and <a href=";a=26ea6fa8-c86d-4d9d-9328-b4c0b06702ae&amp;f=2">Unibet </a>looks like a good bet.</p>
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